Jan 31, 2019 | By Cameron

We’ve covered 3D printed, stiffness-tunable actuators and 3D printed microstructure gradients, so it follows that researchers would 3D print movable microstructures using gradients. A team at Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT) 3D printed microstructures that change shape under the influence of temperature or light.

The feat was achieved with the popular direct laser writing (DLW) 3D printing method where a laser polymerizes voxels of a curable resin; the resin only cures where the laser is perfectly focused, meaning the laser can go through some of the resin without curing it. The method allows for complete 3D control of polymerization at a micron scale. The chemical compound poly(N-isopropysycraymide) shrinks and expands with temperature changes, and by adding the compound to the resin, 3D prints come out with the same temperature-sensitive characteristics. To make the motion more precise and predictable, a microstructure gradient was applied to the part.

"We have developed the method to such an extent that we can also manufacture complex structures in which, as a result of external stimulation, the moving parts do not all react in the same way, but show different but precisely defined reactions," explained Marc Hippler, first author of the study. A computer simulation was also created to precisely predict the movements of the 3D structures.

The teams of Martin Bastmeyer and Martin Wegener expanded on the research by using focused light rather than temperature as a control signal to effect movement. This directed technique provides a much higher level of control as it’s difficult to localize temperature changes. Such a system could be used in microfluidic circuits, medical devices, and of course biological research. 3D printing technology is shrinking so rapidly that it’s becoming difficult to conceptualize what’s happening; it’s far too small already to see with the human eye. Thankfully, most of the researchers with access to micron-scale 3D printers also have powerful microscopes.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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